Vinyl recordings - best methods

Hi there
I would like to draw your attention here:
Maybe, now, there are even better recorders, out there.
Yet a big part of the picture is, do the best with what you have.
We need more discussion with updates on how to do the best recordings.

What about staying in analog domain? Reel to Reel or Nakamichi cassette deck. That is what I do, but usually when in the mood of playing LP I just go for it and fire up my Sondek. 

I posted on this on another thread, but will repeat some of that and add a bit.

Sevs, I have an old Nakamichi cassette deck. It doesn’t come close to touching a DSD128 recording.

For DSD recording there are contenders at widely varying price points. From show reports it seems that the $10K Playback Design Pinot has confounded golden ears to tell the difference between LP source and recording. On another forum a studio engineer has posted a running comparison between pro ADCs. The $5.5K Merging Technologies Hapi seems to be the go-to piece. Unlike the Tascam, which uses op amps throughout, the Hapi uses all discrete components. It’s a more complicated eight-channel unit focused on studio applications. It needs special cables and an Ethernet connection to a Ravenna NIC and Pyramix software on a separate workstation running a downgraded version of Windows. That rules me out as I’m on Windows 10 and won’t go back.

I decided to start with the Tascam, and if dissatisfied, consider Hapi. As good as the Playback designs unit may be, this is one area where a pro unit should be acceptable. After all, pro pieces are used to make DSD recordings that we are probably listening to on new vinyl.

A stock DA-3000 makes very good DSD128 recordings, but you won’t know what you’re missing without upgrading the power cord, footers, and above all, the three-pin bipolar regulators in the power supply to Belleson SPZ78 and SPZ79 parts. Tascam’s free editing software is a handy means of dividing long DSD files into tracks.

The DAC section of the DA-3000 is just average by current hi-end standards, but is a good enough monitor loop to enjoy LPs while recording.

Personally, since I’ve begun to record(at a slow-burn pace) I’m enjoying the trip through the record collection. However, you don’t want to do this twice, so buy the best recording equipment or upgrade the Tascam from the start.

Dgarretson - same with me, my Revox A77 remains on my loft. To get better recordings than 2xDSD on the Tascam, the Revox would at least need a service and probably some considerable upgrade too. I recorded to open reel tape on the Revox for many years but I don’t bother anymore.

"You don’t want to do this twice" - very true. I recorded ca 150 albums on my Korg MR-1, but although I enjoyed the recordings for some years, in a sense it was a waste of time, since the Tascam recordings of the same vinyl are clearly better. I agree, a better power cord is nice, and perhaps footers too, although I have not found a large difference there. Probably better regulators - and other things.

The trouble is, in principle, for every upgrade you do in the analog chain, you want to record your full collection once more, at least, with big upgrades, like a better recorder, or a new cartridge. So this can become a rather crazy hobby.

On the other hand, there is a smile on my face, whenever I hear the recordings, especially from a device weighing 136 grams (the Fiio X3ii) as compared to the 16 kg of my Revox A77.

I can have maybe 60-70 percent of the sound of my main rig wherever I go. That’s great. We live in interesting times.

And it is nice to see, finally, that digital is moving forwards also, listening to what audiophiles have been saying for years. After the big "perfect sound forever" disgrace. Although there is still a number of commentators, usually outside of the audio world, arguing that you don’t really need high resolution (or, disgracefully marketing 44/16 as high res), saying most people dont hear the difference anyway, and similar b-s. Talking down to people. Making people distrust their ears.

It is really strange, how long this has been going on. I don’t think this kind of thing would have a chance in visual media. There, people want the best. As regards sound, however, people (except a "strange" niche of audiophiles) are supposed to be happy with poor sound and compressed music. Its a shame. Ears unite! All power to the ear-proletariat! :-)

There is no doubt whatsoever, in my experience, recording vinyl (and live music) with a lot of different recorders: the better format is the way to go.

True, mastering makes a lot of difference, not to speak of recording, mixing and so on. You can have very good CD format recordings, and very bad. Same with vinyl (but usually not THAT bad). Yet all this is really off topic. The vinyl record (especially, at 45 RPM) remains the "gold standard".

Was DAT recording a step up from CD sound? No. But DAT with "super bit mapping", like the Sony DAT DTC-ZE700? Yes, extending the recording to (something like) 24 bit, it did sound better. I bought one in 1996 and used it to record until I bought the Korg MR-1 in 2009. Does each step up of PCM resolution 92/24 to 192/24 etc sound better? Yes. Does DSD sound even better than PCM? Yes. Double DSD? Yes, best so far. - These judgements are based on long term experiences, not just quick A/B testing.There can be no going back, for me.

Quick question: how DSD128 or 2xDSD corresponds to SACDs I am buying all the time?
Personally, I agree with sevs, stay in analog.  Don't be so overly concerned about your cassette decks or reel to reels electronics.  Really, I had years of studio experience and I can promise you that many of your favorite recordings were done on a multitrack reel to reel and analog sound boards filled with op amps and run of the mill (cheap) interconnects and cables.

I remember doing mix down master tapes using Crowns, Scullys, Studers, Ampex, Teac/TASCAMs, SONYs, etc.. 

The sound was and is incredible.  Currently my Pioneer RT-1050 is my favorite machine.  High speed, plug in headstacks, adjustable bias, NAB/IEC eq, etc.. Hard to ask for more.  The recordings I make, both live and often from my own source LP or compact disc are (to me) perfect.  Not to mention playing my growing collection of master tapes.

I also record many of my favorite LP's to cassette and enjoy this small format as well.  I have many audio friends who have purchased Nakamichis after listening to mine.  

There is simply another levle of enjoyment with analog tape.  I recommend this format as much as I do vinyl LP.



Part of my goal is to put it all into the NAS jukebox and to eventually downsize my vinyl footprint-- but only if digitally recorded vinyl equals hi-res PCM and DSD64 ripped SACDs. The modified Tascam does that.

In my system (see my profile) and to my ears vinyl sounds better than Wadia on SACDs but thanks for the tip! I will try Tascam, $1k . Question: did you manage to make it work with Windows (or Mac)? Or is it still SD cards? 
It still uses SD cards.  I read those into a Windows 10 laptop that hosts Tascam Hi-Res editing software, and from there wirelessly to a NAS.
I have an old Nakamichi cassette deck. It doesn’t come close to touching a DSD128 recording.
Just curious- which deck and when was the last time it was serviced?

I used to maintain a pair of Nak decks for making cassettes for my truck; haven't done that in years and still have the decks knocking about. Both need a serious amount of service (essentially all new rubber parts and some new parts sprinkled through the electronics) in order to come close to their original spec.
It’s a BX-300 that I bought in the late ’80s to make tapes for a custom Alpine and Boston Acoustics system that I put into a Lotus Turbo. It broke once in the mid 90s (the cassette deck that is; the Lotus broke many times) and was repaired and last serviced then with a Factory update to the motor and capstan IIRC.
I’m planning on the same one day. I’ve heard good things about the M2Tech Joplin Mk2 (~$1.6k). I think this is what Michael Fremer uses in his system. In the under $1k category, the RME Babayface Pro has received positive comments.

If I had unlimited funds, I'd go with the Channel D Pure Vinyl software and Seta L or H (depending on your cartridge type). Looks like the ultimate recording system plus you end up with a world class phono stage. I've heard that doing the RIAA in the digital domain is unbeatable for accuracy compared to passive components resulting in digital recordings that sound better than the vinyl. I'm guessing that RIAA in the digital domain also would give you most if not every RIAA option, very useful if you are archiving pre 60s discs.
I did a lot of tries with several combinations. The final satisfactory system is as follows:
- A good turntable with an accurate pitch control if you want to have a duration consistent with the one announced of the LP. Mine is a quartz controlled Hitachi HT-800 (motor only). There is a HT-840 with a plinth and tonearm. Very rare now.
- A cartridge having good specs. Your recording cannot be better than the source. Mine is Benz Micro ACE SL for stereo and Audio-Technica AT-MONO3/ LP for the Mono (my turntable has three arms). This latter must have a load of 100 ohms to prevent harsh sound on DECCA ffrr recordings.
- A good phono pre-ampwith RIAA. Mine is Ray Samuels F117 phono stage. A REAL KILLER better than higly priced phono amps.
- The front end for AD Conversion is the Apogee Duet 2. There is a flaw in this hardware that have a very good sound in the A/D stage; however I have a turn around (If you are interested let me know). If you have more money the Benchmark ADC1 is a very good option.
- The software to capture the flow: IZOTOPE RX5. This software is the top to do the job of declick, denoise, de-hum, de-hiss and more. The Standard edition is OK. The Advanced edition is not required for the job. This software allows also to cut the recording in tracks. The Batch Processing function which allows to concatenate several processing tasks saves a lot of time because you can run these overnight. The declick process is OUTSTANDING; never saw something so performant.

I was at Dave Garretson’s yesterday and was fortunate to hear some of his needle drops. To say I was impressed would be a vast understatement. I don’t think I have heard better quality from digitized vinyl. Now, besides the fact that Dave knows what he is doing, he also has top-notch gear at his disposal - excellent ’table, arms, carts, a great system, and the means to really clean his records. Plus, he doesn’t need a computer for the digitizing. I have been doing CD-R needle drops using my much more modest vinyl rig and a prosumer Marantz CD recorder. I like the results, bu they are nowhere near what Dave was getting with his DSD TASCAM machine.

I am one of the beta testers for the Sweetvinyl Sugarcube-2, a Linux based one-box turn-key solution for declicking, digitizing, adding metadata, and track splitting (all automatic, no computer editing needed). I started a thread here on the SC-2 where I will post my impressions once I take delivery (estimated to be some time in August). This device will provide digital files up to 24/192, so no DSD, but I am hoping it will both produce better-sounding files and be more convenient than my current setup.


Thanks for visiting on Sunday for the demo. I’m taking another step with the Tascam DA-3000 by ordering an external Antelope Liveclock. The Liveclock will provide a 44.1 word clock to the Tascam as appropriate for DSD128 recording. The Antelope will also synchronize itself to the 10Mhz SRS PERF-10 Rubidium clock that I’m using with the Esoteric K-01X. Spec sheets suggest that this will increase clock accuracy to the ADC by an order of magnitude to .01ppm. I can also power the Liveclock at 12Vdc from the Hynes SR7. It’s a $1K gamble, but so far the experiment of recording vinyl with the Tascam has been worthwhile at every step.

An Antelope LiveClock is now 44.1kHz external word clock for the Tascam.  LiveClock is synchronized to the SRS 10mHz rubidium clock.  I haven't yet compared the SRS clock to LiveClock's internal oven controlled oscillator. Both ADC ad DAC sections of the Tascam sound much improved.  It's a pleasant surprise that the wall wart that Antelope includes with the LiveClock is a linear power supply.  Next step is to build a DC umbilical to connect LiveClock to the Hynes SR7.        
BTW, Tascam specs the DA-3000's internal oscillator at 1 ppm precision, as compared to .02ppm for the LiveClock.
hi there again,
dgarretson, and others, I am in for my yearly 'best of' vinyl recordings. For now I will use the DA-3000 as is - it has served me really well - but maybe I could upgrade it in the fall. What are the DA-3000 mods that really make a difference (regarding the recording part)?

@o_holter My posts on the DA-3000 mods are spread out, but here is a link to AA with a summation and photos. Since then I am hearing further improvement after application of Perfect Path Total Contact graphene past to the pin block connectors throughout the unit. That should be done with great care in order to avoid potential shorts.

Feel free to PM me if you want more details, including a hand-written schematic identifying the caps to be replaced in the ADC section.

dgarretson - thank you, I will study this. I am not able to do it myself but maybe I can find a tech who can. By the way, as related in another thread here ("Why are my woofers pumping?"), my cart/arm combo has too low resonance, resulting in subsonic pumping. What is interesting in this context is that the pumping carries over to the DSD recordings made on the Tascam. So it records whatever is there, very low in the frequency spectrum (probably around 7hz).